A Deep Dive Into Gen X Alcohol Purchasing Trends
This generation leans more traditional than trendy, favoring still wines, vodka, and light lager
Smaller than both the millennial and baby boomer generations, Generation X — born between 1965 and 1980 — comprises roughly 19 percent of the United States population and includes more than 65 million people. Often overlooked by marketers in favor of larger age groups, Gen X maintains the highest average household income of all the generations, making the 41 to 56 age group a valuable target demographic for brands and retailers.
“This generation accounts for nearly one-third of shoppers on Drizly,” says Liz Paquette, Drizly’s head of consumer insights. “This makes them the second-largest purchasing generation on the platform, so retailers should not count them out when they think about their ecommerce strategy.”
To appeal to this generation, here’s what retailers and brands should know about Gen X’s beverage preferences and buying behaviors.
Gen X’s Top BevAlc Categories
On Drizly, Gen X share by top level category is currently 45 percent liquor, along with 40 wine share and 13 percent beer. This generation over-indexes on wine compared to other generations and under-indexes on beer. For both liquor and extras, share is on par with other age groups.
According to NielsenIQ data for the 52 weeks ending January 1, 2022, beer had the highest penetration among consumers aged 45 to 54, with 53 percent of that population purchasing within the category. Wine had the next-highest penetration at 48 percent, followed by spirits at 39 percent.
Mariana Fletcher, the head of analytics and insights at IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, points out that Gen X tends to behave similarly to millennials in its drinks-buying behaviors. However, she says, there are a few points of differentiation.
During the past two years, Gen X was more likely than other generations to report drinking more craft beer, gin, and sparkling wine. IWSR research also indicates that Gen X over-indexes on brandy.
“The trials among Gen X were significantly higher than among total beverage alcohol consumers,” says Fletcher. Forty-seven percent of those surveyed reported trying brandy during the last two years, and 58 percent said that they intend to try it. “The thirst for brandy is likely to continue in 2022,” she adds.
Gen X Thirsts for Still Red and White Wines
Within the wine category, Gen X buys a greater share of red and white still wine than other generations on Drizly.
Gen X accounts for 38 percent share of red wine sales on Drizly versus 37 percent for other age groups. Its share for white wine is 32 percent compared to 27 percent for other generations. Within red wine varieties, this generation over-indexes on Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Syrah/Shiraz.
Drizly’s Top-Selling Red Wines Among Gen X Consumers
- Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon
- Meiomi Pinot Noir
- Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
- Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon
- La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
- The Prisoner Red Blend
- Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon
- 19 Crimes Cali Red Snoop Dogg
- Justin Cabernet Sauvignon
- Bota Box Cabernet Sauvignon
Among Gen X’s top-selling red wines, The Prisoner Red Blend and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon outperform with this generation relative to other age groups.
Within the white wine category, Gen X over-indexes on Chardonnay compared to other generations (33 percent share versus 29 percent), and tends to prefer California offerings.
Drizly’s Top-Selling White Wines Among Gen X Consumers
- Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc
- Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc
- Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio DOC
- Cavit Pinot Grigio
- Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc
- Matua Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
- Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay
- Josh Cellars Chardonnay
- Bota Box Pinot Grigio
- La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
Among the generation’s top-selling white wines, Gen X over-indexes on Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc, Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay, Josh Cellars Chardonnay, Bota Box Pinot Grigio, and La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay.
Whiskey and Vodka Are Go-To Spirits
Gen X accounts for a greater share of whiskey and vodka sales compared to other generations. It under-indexes on tequila and ready-to-drink cocktails, both of which are popular with younger generations.
Relative to other generations, Gen X over-indexes within the whiskey category on bourbon (39 percent share versus 38 percent for other generations) and Canadian whisky (four percent share versus three percent).
Drizly’s Top-Selling Whiskey SKUs Among Gen X Consumers
- Jameson Irish Whiskey
- Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey
- Maker’s Mark Bourbon Whisky
- Bulleit Bourbon
- Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Fireball Cinnamon Whisky
- Johnnie Walker Black Label Blended Scotch Whisky
- Crown Royal Fine Deluxe Blended Canadian Whisky
- Jim Beam Bourbon Whiskey
- Basil Hayden Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Among the top-selling whiskey SKUs, Gen X over-indexes on Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey, Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, Crown Royal Fine Deluxe Blended Canadian Whisky, and Basil Hayden Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.
Vodka is also popular with Gen X. The share of vodka sales within the liquor category for this generation on Drizly is 26 percent, compared to just 21 percent for other generations. Within the top 10 vodka SKUs, Gen X over-indexes on Ketel One, Belvedere, and Platinum 7X.
Drizly’s Top-Selling Vodka SKUs Among Gen X Consumers
- Tito’s Handmade Vodka
- Grey Goose Vodka
- Ketel One Vodka
- Smirnoff No. 21 Vodka
- Svedka Vodka
- Absolut Vodka
- SKYY Vodka
- Belvedere Vodka
- New Amsterdam Vodka
- Platinum 7X Vodka
When purchasing beer, Gen X leans toward the light lager and American-style lager categories. Light lager holds 22 percent share of the beer category for this generation compared to only 16 percent for other generations. For American-style lager, the share is seven percent among Gen X consumers versus six percent for other age groups.
This trend reflects an overall preference for familiar drinks and categories, Paquette notes. “At the category level, we see this generation sticking with more traditional categories and being less inclined than younger generations to try newer categories,” she says. “For example, in beer, Gen X over-indexes on lager but under-indexes on hard seltzer.”
Gen X Spending
While future financial stability became more of a concern for Gen X than for other generations over the last couple of years, says Fletcher, their spending habits did not deviate significantly from the norm.
“Twenty-seven percent [of Gen X consumers] reported that in the past two years they had been buying more expensive beer and wine than normal,” she says, noting that this is in line with millennials’ behavior. However, about the same proportion reported buying slightly less expensive sparkling wine, which was not the case among millennials.
When it comes to per-unit spending across categories, Gen X is on par with other generations, averaging $19.70 per unit on Drizly. While Gen Xers buy more wine on Drizly than other age groups, they appear to seek out lower-priced bottles.
“With an average unit price of $18.70 compared to $19.30,” Paquette says, “this generation spends slightly less on wine than other generations.”